I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that Pope Benedict XVI, the beloved shepherd of the Catholic Church, has officially announced his resignation. My husband and I were having dinner when we heard the news on TV. (It was on in the background; we were at the dining table. Where were our kids, you may ask? They’re at my parents’ place right now, spending quality time together with their Lolo and Lola before they leave for a mission trip to India.)
I logged on to Facebook and Twitter and the reaction of netizens are pretty much the same: shock, surprise, sadness, mixed emotions, etc. I found the official text of the Pope’s resignation on the Vatican Radio website, and am sharing it with you here (in case you haven’t read it):
Pope Benedict XVI announces his resignation at end of month
Pope Benedict XVI on Monday said he plans on resigning the papal office on February 28th. Below please find his announcement.
Full text of Pope’s declaration
I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.
For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.
Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.
From the Vatican, 10 February 2013
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
Here in this video from Rome Reports, the Pope calmly announces in Latin his resignation:
If you’ve noticed, there’s no hint of panic, no hint of uncertainty in Pope Benedict’s voice and posture. There is actually a sort of peaceful demeanor about him.
So why then, should we — who are his “sheep” — panic, or be uncertain? Why should we not be at peace?
I’m sure the Holy Spirit led Pope Benedict to make his decision. I believe it. (Even if, like you, I am still a bit shocked by his announcement.)
I also believe it is no coincidence that the Church had previously declared this year as the Year of Faith, a year to strengthen our faith, to reflect more deeply on what we believe, to discover in a greater way the riches of our faith, and to actively be part of the New Evangelization.
It is also no coincidence that the Holy Father announced his resignation just before the beginning of Lent, a time when we are called to deepen our prayer life, to repent of our sins, to fast and make sacrifices, and do more good.
There may be days of uncertainty to come, but we must believe and trust in the greater good — God’s greater good — for all these.
We must follow the example of Pope Benedict, who, in all humility, is able to admit that he is just human and has his limitations, and he can only do so much. (Something many leaders, including here in the Philippines, are too proud to admit.)
So then, my dear friends, I encourage you: Do not be afraid. Let us proclaim our faith, more loudly, more distinctly, more lovingly, now more than ever. It is an exciting time for us all, and for our beloved Mother Church. As the Gospel last Sunday reminds us, “Duc in altum!” Go out into the deep! Let us go forth, in courage, knowing that Jesus is with us, and our Church, and its leaders, every step of the way. Also, let us pray, pray, pray. Pray and act. Pray for our Church, pray for our leaders, pray for our people.
And, yes, let us take courage in the words of Pope Benedict XVI himself:
“To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say Yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That’s not easy, but the basic Yes, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren’t simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith.”
Note: Photo source of Pope Benedict can be found here.